OK, so you’ve been flamed…now what?

This may not be the deepest post to ever come from SMMI, but I think we have to be ever-mindful that there are new people finding us every day and there are times when a recap is in order. As always, I encourage those of you with longer histories in the social space to offer your comment.

Yesterday I was with a colleague, someone who I met recently and with whom I was discussing some potential work. She runs a communications company, but the company has never really engaged in social media (I know, I was baffled too). Nonetheless, our meeting started with her asking me to grab my laptop so she could read an article/blog post that appeared on the .com version of a newspaper about one of her clients – a client who was not excited about the recognition.

In reading the post, it turns out this colleague was mentioned too…in a less-than-flattering way. After she and I had a long discussion about why she needed Google Alerts for herself and her business we began discussing how to address this post and the claims made therein. It was an interesting case, because not only did she have to manage the claims made against her, but her client was expecting her to work through his mention too. Certainly not your textbook case, which is why I decided to discuss it here.

If you have just recently started blogging, one of the things to be mindful of is that comments are as important (if not more important) than the post itself. That is why it is called “social” media…you are working with the world to produce the best product. Some of the best blogs I have ever read start with a subtle comment from the author and then grow with insight from the community. Within that there is plenty of room for things to go wrong. My advice, never let a comment go unnoticed….even if it is something you didn’t really want to discuss.

In this case the claims made about my colleague were all based upon some rather lofty innuendo, so addressing them was not hard. She crafted a reply that connected dots A, B and C without offering too much wiggle room for the author (or the community at large) to insert their own opinion. I am watching carefully to see how it is received.

But what if the comments had been an absolute fabrication? They are the ones that make it harder to reply with a cool head. Nonetheless you still have to reply. I had this happen to me recently. A former client of my firm decided to go online and tell the world that the president of the firm and one of our sales staff were crooks, liars and despicable. Of course it immediately trended to the first page of Google for their names and for the firm…perfect. I needed to reply, and I needed to reply quickly. In talking with our company counsel, there were many many facts this person had chosen to ignore, including the fact that he had asked the sales person to commit a felony on his behalf. As I started to craft my reply I considered whether to add those elements that clarified the story….and then I remembered that blogs are social media, and that anyone and everyone could (and would) use this as a chance to pile on the firm for any possible wrong they ever felt they had been done. A reply was still necessary. I finally ended up with the “We dispute the facts stated in this post, and we look forward to the opportunity to discuss them with anyone who reaches out to us” and put a link to our company contact page. Never heard another word.

You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating – do not just take the comment down if you control the blog, or ask the admin to take the post down on another. Doing so will only create more angst, and will make things worse for you. Perhaps this is time to talk about having a clearly-defined comment policy for comments – and using that policy to screen comments before they run. However instead I am going to point you to a great post from last year that was done by SMMI’s own Amy Chorew. Hopefully that will help.

These are just my thoughts on the issue – I encourage you to comment freely.

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